It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!! Spring is right around the corner, we have our seeds selected, our planting schedule complete and a greenhouse that’s just begging to be filled with heirloom vegetable and herb plants. Seed starting is probably one of my most favorite tasks around the farm… that and the required goat cuddling that must be done at least twice daily. Each seed planted is a little hope for the season to come. But if you’ve never started seeds indoors before, or just need a refresher or some new tips; here’s a look at starting seeds in our greenhouse.
The first seeds we planted were most of our pepper seeds. We’re growing eleven varieties this year, six of them have a longer day to maturity rate than the other five. So we’re starting the varieties with the longer growth rate first, thinking that come harvest time, all of the peppers will be maturing and fruiting at the same time. We’ll see how well this method works later on in the season.
We start out with clean and sanitized 72 cell trays and our growth medium. This year we’re using Pro-Mix HP with Mycorrhizae. Ok, what the hell is that? Pro-Mix HP is a great growth medium that’s perfect for starting seeds indoors with the intention to up-pot them and eventually transplant them outside. Mycorrhizae is a microscopic fungi that aids in healthy root development. You can also buy mycorrhizae as a separate inoculant and add it to a growth medium if it doesn’t already include it. Although it’s a teeny, tiny microscopic fungi, it makes a huge difference in the beginning stages of plant growth. If you’re into numbers and stats, check out this great PDF from Pro-Mix on the whole breakdown of the growth medium and benefits of mycorrhizae. It’s an exciting, non-stop thrill ride of a PDF!
So after we seed our trays, we put a clear, plastic dome on top of the flat. Then, because our greenhouse has a radiant heated floor, it acts as its own heat mat, which is perfect for peppers because they like it HOT! They germinate best when the soil temperature is between 70-90 degrees. If you don’t have a heated floor, you could use a heating pad, or a heat lamp aimed up at the bottom of the flats. Peppers also don’t need a whole lot of water either. It’s like they thrive off of hate and passive aggressive notes. Heat, light watering and a good amount of humidity. That’s what they like. Some varieties may take two to three weeks to germinate so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see many springing up to the surface in the first few days.
When the very first ones do emerge, we place a marker with a star on it for two reasons; 1) to let them know they are doing a great job and we are proud of them and 2) so we can observe how that plant does throughout the season. If it is a good producer, along with its early germination, we will save its seeds for next year.Â Once the seedlings really start to emerge and take off, we’ll take off the dome and move them up to the shelves so they can start getting a good amount of light.
Aside from the peppers, we also started our kale and a variety of herbs that we’re adding to our new herb/perennial garden this year! We have three varieties of basil, german chamomile, hyssop, roselle (hibiscus), and oregano. Most of these seeds are sown similar to the peppers (1/4″ deep) but a few of the herbs, such as chamomile, need to be surface sown. Super easy to do, no need to over think it. Just sprinkle a pinch of seed in each cell then water lightly to settle in the seeds. A lot of herbs need light to germinate, so keep them in a sunny location or under grow lights.
One last thing you’ll want to think about when planting seeds is a good log book to keep track of your progress throughout the season. We keep track of the date of when we plant everything, the species, the variety, how many cells were planted and how many seeds per cell. Additionally, we add in other notes, such as the anticipated days to germination, soil temperature requirements, light requirements and when seedlings began sprouting. I can’t stress enough how important record keeping is, especially if you’re growing for any sort of production (even if it is just for yourself). You can even write a little note to your pepper or tomato seedlings, telling them how proud you are of them and how you hope they grow up big and strong and delicious.
We’re really excited to start not only our vegetable field, but also our new perennial/herb/tea garden this year! And most importantly, we are looking forward to keeping you updated on the progress from seed to plate, from farm to table!